The Metaverse is coming – not now, and not for some time yet, but it’s evolving and, as the name suggests, Meta is keen to take ownership of this next step and ensure it remains relevant in the future iteration of the web. as we know it.
And it’s another step in that direction – today Meta released an updated process for creating its 3D avatar on Facebook and Messenger, while now allowing users to use their custom avatars in Facebook and Messenger as well. Instagram stories and DMs.
As you can see in this image, Meta’s new 3D avatars have more refined features and customization options to make them look more like the real people they represent, while Meta also adds more inclusive customization features, especially Cochlear implants, hearing aids and wheelchairs, giving more users the ability to represent themselves in its applications.
Meta has offered its 3D avatars as an option in its main app since 2019, with the ability to create a digital representation of yourself which can then be added to stickers, messages, reactions and more.
But while some people have embraced these characters, they haven’t really caught on in a major way. Meta hopes to change that with this new extension which, as noted, will also allow Instagram users to create their virtual selves.
Which will further open new opportunities for sponsored content.
“From now until February 28, you can equip your avatar to support one of two Super Bowl LVI contenders – or if you can’t bring yourself to cheer on either team, you can also choose a neutral Super Bowl LVI jersey instead.
Digital clothing is quickly becoming a key business trend, with Snapchat also offering a range of digital items to outfit your Bitmoji avatar in its app. And when you also consider that a virtual Gucci bag sold for $4,000 on Roblox last year, there’s clearly a growing demand for such items, which might seem odd to those outside of these worlds, but which actually makes a lot of sense, given the status and prestige they can bring to these alternative digital cultures.
When then delves into another element, in NFTs, the latest big trend to take over social media circles.
One of the confusing things about the current NFT trend is that it’s not entirely clear what the purpose of these works of art is, versus the next stage of digital connection. Is the idea that you will display these digital artworks in the metaverse, in your own personalized space, or is it, as many NFT projects have suggested, that you can eventually adapt these profile pictures by full body, 3D avatars, which you could then use to represent yourself in a theoretical and all-encompassing VR or AR world?
In the case of the latter, that seems unlikely to be a high priority, as we already have various metaverse-like platforms, including Roblox and Fortnite, where people can purchase digital ‘skins’ for gamers, and based on the trends we’re seeing in these apps, it’s unlikely that it’s random images of monkeys and cats that will become prominent representations of people in these settings.
The latest Marvel characters, popular Star Wars villains – character portrayals based on trendy movies and TV shows tend to win the day in these apps, and while users can opt for references from more obscure pop culture, the most common and coolest skins at all times generally see the most use. The concept of NFTs is that you own a unique character, which no one else can have – but with the ability to look like you or opt for a popular character instead, will people really want to look like a punk? pixelated in real size? The cultural trends of the time will play a much more important role than originality in this regard.
Indeed, Fortnite character skins are extremely popular – in fact, Fortnite derives the majority of its revenue from the sale of digital items, including skins, not Season Battle Passes (actually subscriptions game) as some might expect.
Buying a new look for your character is second nature to the next generation of consumers, and it’s those audiences that are likely to drive metaverse change, with Meta repeatedly noting that it will likely take years. a decade or so, for the larger metaverse vision to take shape.
Will people really want to portray their digital selves as a bored monkey from 2022 a decade from now?
I mean, maybe it is and I’m missing the point, and maybe the goal is to display your digital artwork in your own dedicated space. But it seems to me that, as an investment in metaverse change, you’re better off looking at projects that build universal, transferable things, like avatars, that can be adapted for the next stage, and will allow users to create custom visual representations that align with existing trends and are designed with portability in mind from the ground up.
That’s why projects like Ready Player Me seem more interesting, with custom avatar creation tools that aren’t limited to a specific trend, and which ideally will eventually translate to the patterns and requirements of a universal metaverse platform.
This is also where Meta’s avatar expansion comes in. With the ability to build a representation of yourself that becomes familiar and that you can adopt as your virtual identity, Meta positions itself right now to be the source of these characters, who will represent you in space.
Which will be a key development focus for the company going forward – as Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted:
“One day you will have multiple avatars ranging from expressive to photorealistic. Looking forward to sharing more soon.”
Meta’s photorealistic avatars are already well advanced and could one day be used as a true representation of yourself in digital environments.
But we’re a long way from that step, which would require in-person digital scanning, as well as massive amounts of computing power to facilitate full movement.
It probably won’t be a fully functional option for some time, and until then you’ll be using cartoonish representations of yourself, like the ones we already see in VR, to engage and interact in these spaces.
This early development by Meta is a decision to own this item, which is also a step towards ownership of the metaverse more broadly. Because despite all the talk about Web3 and a fully decentralized and democratized Internet, the reality is that someone will have to provide the platforms on which to build these new experiences.
Blockchain systems already use masses of energy to facilitate decentralized networks, based on each computer in the chain acting as its own node, and the feasibility of this type of system being used to power more complex digital networks seems tenuous at best. . Which probably means that the big tech players will have to, at least, build the foundation, upon which others can then expand, and within that, it may be that Meta dictates the requirements of the metaverse, potentially in partnership with other actors. to ensure interoperability.
But it’s a big ask, and it will take some time to evolve.
Meta is now working to integrate into this change. And given its reach and presence, and its ability to make it easy to connect with custom avatar tools, this could be a big step.
Meta’s new 3D avatar tools are now available for users in the US, Canada and Mexico.